Obama: World Cup affecting foreign policy

Obama: World Cup affecting foreign policy

President Obama said the World Cup tournament has had an effect on U.S. foreign policy, as he watched the U.S.-Germany match aboard Air Force One on Thursday.

“We had elements — which I won’t detail — of our foreign policy that have been shaped around the World Cup,” Obama told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. “Phone calls, meetings, initiatives we had to think about.” 

The president did not elaborate on how the games had impacted the work of American diplomats, but the tournament has unfolded as the U.S. juggles crises in both Iraq and Ukraine. 

In recent days, the president has been discussing those hot spots with foreign leaders from other World Cup participants, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President François Hollande, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

National security council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said Obama wasn't joking about the role the World Cup had played in foreign policy.

"The World Cup is just as exciting for the President and other foreign leaders as it is for the rest of us," Hayden said. "The World Cup has come up on the margins of the President’s phone calls with foreign leaders over the last week."

Hayden did add that there were no new presidential bets to announce ahead of the U.S.'s match with Belgium.

Obama told ABC that while the U.S. was "not Germany yet or Italy or France or Argentina or Brazil" that the men's squad was a "middle-of-the-pack team" that was "now in the mix."

At an event later Thursday in Minneapolis, Obama congratulated the U.S. team for advancing to the next round, despite its 1-0 loss to Germany.

"We've still got a chance to win the World Cup, and we could not be prouder of them," Obama said.

The president noted the U.S. was in the "group of death" and that in advancing, "they are defying the odds and earned a lot of believers in the process."

This story was updated at 8:00 p.m.